A student asks:
My name is Pauline – I have taken a couple of courses with you. I have the Canon 5D and we had talked about a perchase I sould make of a 50mm lens — when I talked with a salesperson, they said because the 5D is a full frame camera that I would need the 85mm so that I would not get distortion. Due to the fact the an L series 85mm lens was more than the 50mm L – I resisted the purchase. Can you please help me – I took the portrait course in Waterloo and the instructor said portraits are done with zoom lenses wich I know you can, but I had never heard that before – he didn’t recomend a 50mm at all.
Headshots are best done with a lens that is, say, 75mm long or more. As it happens, the 50mm lens works like a 80mm lens on crop bodies – not on yours. So the salesperson is right that for headshots, 85 would be great.
On yours, a 50 is a “nifty fifty” – a general purpose or, when used for portraits, half/body shot lens.
However! A 50mm lens is a very affordable fast lens – fast meaning large aperture (low f-number, 1.8 or 1.4), and that is a very great benefit. Get one and use it as a half- or full body shot lens or for general purpose you when you want to shoot in available light or want blurred backgrounds.
I have a full frame camera too and yet I also have a 50. I do not use it for headshots, but I use it for many many other things.
So yes – get one. No it will not be the only lens you own – no lens, alas, every will be! But it will be a lovely lens that will change your photography.
POST EDIT: “Portraits are done with zoom lenses”? I would not agree with that. Some are; some are not. Available light portraits in particular, see tomorrow’s post, are almost always taken with fast prime lenses.